Good and Bad Schools, Education

“‘good public school’ —Now that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. With public schools it’s not a matter of whether they are good or bad. There are just different levels of bad.”

This is a quote I read today on a blog about why someone chose not to homeschool. (email me for link)

Now, I’m not exactly public school’s number one fan, but I have to ask – why does this person have the right or the privilege of deciding whether or not schools are “bad”? “Bad” – what does that mean exactly?

When someone says school, or homeschool or parents or whatever is “bad”, I immediately wonder what they are talking about. What do they mean? Because odds are, their idea of “bad” is very different than my idea of bad.

Comments like these may make us feel powerful and strong, but they make us look like dorks. To be honest.

First of all, there is no such thing as a universal “good” or “bad”. Especially when it comes to education. There are schools and educational approaches that meet our needs or criteria, and there are those that don’t. But since every person has different criteria for a good education, what one person would consider a “good” school, another person will see it as “bad”. One person sees test scores, graduation rates and credentialed teachers, another sees gangs, unhealthy competition and socialist indoctrination.

Secondly, people aren’t perfect. Nobody. So, why does my opinion of what is a good school or education count more than someone who doesn’t agree with me? Why does mob rule have more clout? Simply because more people believe it? Everyone’s opinion of whether an educational program is “good” or ‘bad” is based on their internal system of beliefs and experiences.

This is one reason that I don’t argue that homeschooling is the best choice for everyone. Although I believe that homeschooling is indeed the most flexible, and everyone is fully capable of homeschooling if that’s what their desire and intention is, I still don’t see homeschooling as some kind of elevated plane of existence. It’s just… different. Better for some. Not for others. Better for me.

I see no problem with people saying homeschooling is better. But for me to agree or make any kind of critical assessment of their statement, it must be made clear what their idea of “better” and “good” is. Because if we don’t agree on that basic premise (which we probably won’t), then what that person says is “better” about homeschooling, may actually be “worse” in my eyes. Or perhaps, not really that significant at all.

So, “bad” , “good”.. .that doesn’t mean anything to me when I see it if it doesn’t have a concrete context. If we want to get our point across clearly, we need to be careful when we use ambiguous words to describe schools and education. Most likely, the person who is reading our commentary isn’t thinking about what we think is good and bad, but their own definition – unless we prep them first.

If we just want to get people all riled up, well then, that’s a different story entirely.


4 Responses to “Good and Bad Schools, Education”

  1. Sharon J. Says:

    Lets not forget that our children are listening. I will never say that ___ public school is bad. If (heaven forbid!) something were to happen to my kids’ dad or myself, that’s where they would end up, at least for a while, while we regroup. I never want my kids to think that kids go there as punishment, or because they aren’t wanted at home. Just that right now, and for the foreseeable future, homeschooling is the best option for our family.

  2. Kerrie Says:

    Tammy, I think your ability to share your opinions and choices without criticizing others for thinking or choosing differently would make you a great leader, both within the homeschooling community and otherwise. Have you considered running for President? 🙂

  3. sunniemom Says:

    I haven’t received the link to the original post, but having been around forums for awhile, I have noticed that HSers tend to forget they aren’t always ‘preaching to the choir’. That we sometimes over-generalize because we are taking for granted the nature of audience. I hope I don’t do that as I get more involved in blogging.

    I will say that I believe that for young children, the traditional classroom method of education is not a good thing. There are alot of disadvantages, which IMO make it a ‘bad’ thing- as in not beneficial, inefficient, and ineffective. Quite frankly, I see no advantages at all. I can’t recommend public and even private schools that don’t have the means to provide the necessary individual attention, make room for children to mature and learn at their own pace, or encourage parental involvement.

    I agree that we weigh and measure subjects such as child-rearing and education from our own insights and experience.

  4. Tammy Says:

    Sharon – so true! I’ve thought about this a lot too. We have a plan B and C for our kids if for some reason I was no longer able to stay home with them, or we had some other family issue. Plan C is our local PS. Also, we have lots and lots of friends in PS. Talking smack about PS is disrespectful for them. Kids don’t understand the difference between criticizing a system and criticizing the people who use it. Heck, most adults don’t either.

    Kerrie – Only if I can hire you for my PR rep. 🙂 But seriously, thank you for your kind comment 🙂

    sunniemom – writing to blogs is a form of public speaking. The same rules of who is successful in getting their point across in public speaking are also true on blogs. I agree with you, it’s easy to forget who we are talking to in the blogosphere.

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